Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "Man of Action, Man of God: The Life and Spirit of Blessed Daniel Brottier, CSSp. *"

See other formats







Spiritan Collection 

Duquesne University 

The Gumberg Library 

Congregation of the Holy Spirit 
USA Eastern Province 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 


The Life and Spirit of Blessed Daniel Brottier CSSp. 

Edited by 

Alphonse Gilbert CSSp 
and Myles Fay CSSp 

Born in 1876 at Ferte-Saint-Cyr to the west of Paris, Dan- 
iel Brottier from his earliest years felt called to the priesthood. 
He answered the call firstly by volunteering for his own diocese 
of Blois. Subsequently, however, he joined the Holy Ghost 
Fathers in 1902 and served as a missionary in Senegal from 
1903 to 1911. 

On his return to France for health reasons he took up 
work fund-raising for the cathedral of Dakar. World War I 
intervened before this project went very far. He volunteered as 
a chaplain and ministered in the front lines for four years of 
the war. He became a legendary figure for his courage in car- 
ing for troops on the battlefield. 

Almost miraculously preserved from death and wounds, 
twice decorated and six times mentioned in despatches, Daniel 
Brottier founded the organisation for French Ex- Servicemen in 
the post-war years. In 1923, he was seconded by the Holy 
Ghost Fathers to the orphanage of Auteuil in Paris, a work 
founded 60 years earlier by the Abbe Roussel. Due to the 
deprivations of war this had fallen on evil times. 

Turning to St. Therese of Lisieux for heavenly help, Fr 
Brottier threw himself into the task of building up this orpha- 
nage into a substantial contribution to the welfare of vagrant 
youth in all of modern France. At his death there were 15 
houses with 1200 young people in care. The work has contin- 
ued to grow and has been marked by an almost miraculous 
flow of funds to keep it prospering. 

Shortly after his death, people began to seek favours 
through the intercession of Daniel Brottier. The collected vol- 
umes recording favours received amount to 1200 closely 
printed pages. Fr Brottier's body was exhumed in 1962 and 
found incorrupt. He was beatified on 25 November 1984 by 
Pope John Paul II. 


General Editor: Brian Gogan CSSp. 

Volume 1 - Life Began at Forty, The Second Conver- 
sion of Francis Libermann CSSp by Ber- 
nard Kelly, CSSp 

Volume 2 - Man of Action, Man of God, The Life and 
Spirit of Blessed Daniel Brottier CSSp 
Edited by Alphonse Gilbert CSSp and 
Myles Fay CSSp 

Man of Action, Man of God 

The Life and Spirit of Blessed Daniel Brottier css,> 

Edited by 

Alphonse Gilbert CSSp 

and Myles Fay CSSp 


Paraclete Press 
Dublin & London 


V ' 




Man of Action, Man of God 

Paraclete Press, 

169 Booterstown Avenue, 

Co. Dublin 

First published by Paraclete Press, 1984 

Copyright, © Alphonse Gilbert CSSp and Myles Fay, CSSp 1984 
Originally published as Spiritan Papers, no. 1 7 
Holy Ghost Congregation Generalate, Rome 1984 

Made and Printed in Italy by Scuola Tipografica S. Pio X 



Preface : A Visit to Auteuil 5 

Jean Gosselin : The Life and Work of Fr. Daniel Brottier 8 

Fr. Jean P. Le Gall, C.S.Sp: The Man Whom Grace 

Turned into a Saint 18 

Fr. Gabriel David, C.S.Sp: The Heart of Auteuil 27 

Fr. Alphonse Gilbert, C.S.Sp: In the Footsteps of Fr. 

Libermann . 35 

Fr. Marcel Martin, C.S.Sp: Daniel Brottier, the Holy 

Ghost Father 52 

Fr. Myles L Fay, C.S.Sp: Epilogue 55 

Further Reading on Father Daniel Brottier 57 



By way of preparation for editing this work on Fr Brottier I 
spent a few days with my Spiritan confreres at Auteuil on the 
outskirts of Paris. I began with a prayer at Father Brottier's 
grave, my first visit to it in ten years. (On that occasion I was 
formally presenting a past student of Auteuil to the bishop for 
Ordination to the priesthood after his studies at Chevilly). 
People were praying at the grave and then moving to the altar 
and statue of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, with its relic, just 
to the left. They were obviously joining the two "saints" in 
one religious act. A lady beside me kept repeating, "Good 
Father Brottier, Good Father Brottier!" I had heard a similar 
invocation at the grave of another Holy Ghost Father, far away 
on the island of Mauritius, "Good Father Laval, Good Father 
Laval!" I felt in my heart that she was heard, God listens to 
the prayers of the humble. Here, as on Mauritius, the humble 
gather, the little ones, the distressed, the outcast, whose 
plight is equalled only by their trust. Evidently both Daniel 
Brottier and James Laval are continuing the apostolate to the 
most abandoned that they began on earth in different circum- 
stances but in the one spirit. A simple basket on the grave 
was filled with folded scraps of paper, some of them carefully 
prepared beforehand, others torn from a copybook. In my 
own indiscreet way I unfolded a few. I heard later that the 
basket receives thousands of these! They read: 

I am alone in my pain; I expect the worst; Father Brottier, 
help me — Father Brottier, take pity on my baby — My little 
daughter has had an accident, fractured skull, broken legs; 
Father Brottier, save her — For my birthday twelve, I got a 
hundred francs; here are fifty for children with no parents; is 
that all right? — With both legs amputated, my pain is dread- 
ful; Father Brottier, do something for me — I feel alone, I can- 
not cope, I am lonely and lost, I have only you, dear Father 
Brottier — I cannot pray any more, help me — Father Brottier, 
pray for this old priest who should retire but has nowhere to 


go — I love God, I want to serve God, but I am not even bap- 
tized and I have sinned; what am I to do? Help me. 

I prayed along with these people, feeling their reassu- 
rance. Father Brottier himself prayed with the boldness of 
humility. "They reproach me for wanting too expensive a 
chapel, but I asked Little Therese herself: Do you want a sim- 
ple dress or a pretty one?" She sent enough for a very pretty 
one. There is the added fact that I was cured myself by Fath- 
er Brottier. In 1943 I was being treated unsuccessfully for an 
infectious wound in the foot until until I found a picture (one of 
two million that had been printed!) of Fr. Brottier and placed it 
on the wound. Within a few hours the infection was gone 
and the skin cured. I went to report the cure to Fr. Duval, the 
new director of Auteuil, only to find a gentleman there with 
Father Brottier's breviary, which had cured his daughter of 
meningitis by the mere touch. These memories came back to 
me as I watched the people touch Father Brottier's grave. His 
body was found perfectly preserved when it was exhumed in 
1962, 26 years after his death. 

In the playground I noticed the varied nationalities of to- 
day's young people at Auteuil, many of them reminders of 
recent catastrophes: the boat-people of Vietnam, Laotian ex- 
iles, refugees from Cambogia, children from Uganda, Asiatics, 
Africans, South Americans. "Widen the domain of your char- 
ity", Pope Pius XI had said to Father Brottier. This is precisely 
what has happened. Auteuil is a sampling of the evils of our 
day. Behind each face is a family or social tragedy that 
weighs heavily on the young person's affective and psycho- 
logical balance. Young people from France, from the third 
and fourth worlds, all hide sufferings behind their brave appea- 

My Spiritan confreres at Auteuil would keep repeating that 
the real need is for love and understanding, over and above 
money to receive and train these youths. At community 
prayer they pray Father Brottier to send educators who are 
sincere and deeply Christian, trained in the latest pedagogical 
sciences, but with a heart "as big as that", as big as Father 
Brottier's. I spent a night-vigil with some of these educators 
before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the lower chapel. 
Strength and love must come from above for a task like theirs. 
The chaplains of the Auteuil houses are full of hope and zeal. 
But they are aging and thinning out. In this new kind of micro- 


cosm young Spiritans from other countries, young African 
Spiritans, might find a way of giving their life for abandoned 
youth. I thought of this when I remembered how many will 
read these pages from the new provinces and foundations. 

It is with a thought for them, and for people of every 
nation who do not know Father Brottier, that we have edited 
this issue, letting those speak who are most knowledgeable 
on his life, work, and spirit. His beatification is near. We are 
offering inspiration, documentation and bibliography for publi- 
cations in other languages when the moment comes. And we 
have tried also to trace his Spiritan charism in the steps of 
Father Libermann. 

St. Francis de Sales said, "the gospel is written music, 
the saint is sung music". Daniel Brottier, C.S.Sp., sang the 
gospel with his whole life I Mirabilis Deus in Sanctis suis. God 
is wonderful in his saints! 

Alphonse Gilbert, C.S.Sp. 

This book was originally published as Spiritan Papers, 
No. 17, one issue of a review intended primarily for members 
of the Holy Ghost Congregation. In giving this study to a 
wider audience, we trust they will forgive us the family pietas 
evident in these pages and rejoice with us in the gift of know- 
ing Daniel Brottier. 


Father Brottier's entire life was filled with God, the God of 
love whose tenderness and mercy St. Therese of Lisieux 
showed out afresh at the end of the nineteenth century, tinged 
as it still was with Jansenism. His life was oriented towards 
"the poor and little ones", from Senegal to Auteuil — God's 
chosen ones. It was enlivened by a faith that swept all obsta- 
cles aside, that motivated his every action and kept him in 
close union with God. 

Daniel Brottier was born on 7 September 1876 at La 
Ferte-Saint-Cyr, a pretty little village not far from the town of 
Chambord in the Department of Loire-et-Cher. The house he 
was born in lay close to the chateau; his father was coachman 
to the Marquis of Durfort. He always wanted to be a priest, 
and started learning Latin even before he started school. His 
little witticism, "I will be Pope", had a depth beyond the ordi- 
nary, it revealed his personality unambiguously, his first indica- 
tion of the "all or nothing" that marked the main steps of his 
life: missionary in Dakar, priest in the trenches in 1914-1918, 
builder of the Dakar cathedral and of the Auteuil chapel. It 
recalls Little Therese's "I will become a Saint". Both state- 
ments are bold, direct expressions of a spiritual type, a desire 
to live close to God; they link two souls which continue to 
work in tandem. 


Daniel made his first holy communion in 1886 at the age 
of ten, and entered the junior seminary of Blois the following 
year. His school companions remember a lively, outgoing 
boy, even mischievous, but good-hearted. After the long 
years of the senior seminary he was ordained priest 22 Octo- 
ber 1899 by Bishop Laborde of Blois. He was assigned to the 
Free School of Pontlevoy, where he worked marvels with the 


children. But something was wanting, his field of action was 
limited, his apostolic soul sought outlet. He chose to become 
a missionary and entered the Holy Ghost Congregation. The 
exchange of heart-rending letters with his parents and family 
makes clear that the latter, although greatly anguished, ac- 
cepted the sacrifice with a good heart. 

After a year's novitiate at Orly near Paris he left for Africa 
in 1903. He wrote the following words to Archbishop Le 
Roy, the superior general, witnessing to his thirst for the apos- 
tolate, born of a deep life of prayer: "I have always envisaged 
the missionary's life as that of people willing to sacrifice them- 
selves for the salvation of souls". Again, they indicate the 
"all or nothing" of his life pattern. 


To his disappointment Fr. Brottier was assigned to the 
parish in the town of St. Louis, whereas he had dreamt of a 
rough life in the interior. Welcomed by his parish priest, 
Fr. Jalabert, later Bishop, he spent himself at his urban aposto- 
late. He turned his attention to the most abandoned of the 
time, the half-castes. Where many missionaries had des- 
paired of evangelizing them, Fr. Brottier succeeded in convinc- 
ing his companions there was hope. With youthful vigour he 
also turned towards the youth, revitalizing apostolic works 
that had died with the transfer of former priests. He gave 
weekly instructions to the students of Faidherbe secondary 
school; he founded a child-aid centre; he published a parish 
bulletin in 1906 that still appears today under a title he would 
have liked, "Unite". But the first issue was hardly out when 
he fell sick and was advised to return to France. 

After six months with his family he wondered if God was 
not calling him to be a Trappist. Nothing came of it and he 
returned to St. Louis in 1907, where he developed his journal- 
istic talents and organized a band. St. Louis was giving him 
full scope for priestly and missionary activity; he was creative, 
enterprising, progressive and disturbing! Prayer sustained all 
this activity, but his health deteriorated. He had to come 
home again. 



A major interlude in his life at this juncture was his stay at 
the Trappist monastery of the Islands of Lerins. Back in 
France in June 1911, his old desire to enter a monastery 
awoke. The following letter reveals his state of soul, torn 
between contemplative and active life, and his total surrender 
to God's will. 

Paris, 2 November 1911 
Dear Martha and Madeleine, 

You will probably remember as clearly as I an evening 
in April 1 908 when I told you my intentions of enter- 
ing the Trappists. You also know how I nourished this 
in my heart and hoped to follow it up. I made a deci- 
sion and must tell you about it. 

From 20 to 30 September, unknown to Bishop Jala- 
bert and with the sole permission of Archbishop Le 
Roy, I spent in the Trappist monastery of Lerins in the 
Mediterranean. I lived unforgettable hours in the re- 
collection of the cloister in an atmosphere of sacrifice 
and immolation. But the lack of sleep, and especially 
of food, wore me down and after a few days I had to 
yield to the evidence: I was not made for this kind of 
life. I came back to Paris, and now, bravely and 
without looking back, I face the future whatever it 
be. There are big question-marks over my return to 
St. Louis. I have promised to leave all to providence 
and take no steps, for or against. That is the only 
way for a religious to do his duty. 

D. Brottier 


This enterprise must be looked at in its historical context. 
Bishop Jalabert's plan could appear "colonial", like building a 
hospital or a governor general's residence, but his perspective 
was different. Dakar, of which Jalabert was bishop, was "the 
daughter of the Holy Ghost Fathers, born in 1846 on the initia- 


tive of a young Spiritan, Fr. Arragon; thanks to him the gate to 
West Africa was opened to the gospel and to France" (from 
Fr. Yves Pichon's biography of Fr. Brottier). Bishop Jalabert's 
twofold objective in one operation was to build a fitting place 
of worship as a cathedral, and a monument of homage to all 
who gave their energy, blood and life for the sake of Africa, in 
the service of the African people. Fr. Brottier had just re- 
turned to France, forced by poor health to leave Africa for 
good. The bishop knew Fr. Brottier's potential. He ap- 
pointed him vicar general of Dakar "residing in Paris" and 
director of the African Memorial. 

Fr. Brottier was enthusiastic that even in France he would 
be doing a missionary task. He threw all his energy into the 
new apostolate; he set up a secretariate and a public relations 
office that offended some of his zealous confreres; he in- 
volved lay people; he gave a soul to the work that Christians 
in France could not ignore. A network of reliable friends took 
shape that gradually covered all France. He concentrated on 
the African Memorial for seven years over two periods, 1911- 
1914 and 1919-1923. It brought out his qualities and virtues 
providentially; his great faith and missionary spirit mobilized 
his remarkable human qualities. It challenged him adequately 
as he brought Bishop Jalabert's dream to a reality. On 2 Feb- 
ruary 1936 the Dakar cathedral was consecrated by Cardinal 
Verdier, papal legate. Notably absent from the ceremony was 
Fr. Brottier himself, who preferred to remain hidden in the hour 
of glory; instead, he delivered an electrifying address — his 
last — to his children in Auteuil, who had gathered to honour 
him that day. 

My Children, 

I cannot find words to thank you for this surprise 
today. It is very moving for me. This intimate cele- 
bration gives me more joy than had I gone to Dakar 
with the cardinal. Children, my happiness is rooted 
in you. When I was beginning twenty-five years of 
work on the African Memorial, if I had known the joy 
you would procure me today it would have been 
enough. People are surprised I did not go to Dakar to 
receive laurels. I am past the age for human hon- 
ours; besides, about Dakar, I never thought an instant 
of human glory. God's love brings events together for 
his greatest glory. You must know that without Bi- 


shop Jalabert and the African Memorial, there would 
be no chapel to St. Therese here today. Nor would I 
be here with you, dear children. As long as the 
breath of life lasts we must bless God and sing forever 
the Lord's mercies. 

Fr. Brottier's fine soul shines through this message to his 
children, twenty-six days before his death: self-effacement, 
complete abnegation in the light of God's glory alone. He 
was already living in God. 


Could it be that the years spent working for the African 
Memorial sometimes weighed heavily on Fr. Brottier, extraor- 
dinary man of action and down-to-earth priest that he was? It 
entailed long days and nights at a desk, writing, replying all 
the time, frequent contacts with "important people", from the 
Duchess of Chartres to the Prince of Aremberg, including 
Madame Savorgnan de Brazza and General Gourand. Fr. Bro- 
ttier had made it his duty to alert "all Paris" to his noble work, 
and Paris responded generously. But this image of Fr. Bro- 
ttier, tied to the desk or frequenting the salons, is scarcely the 
one we think of spontaneously. He was made for an "apos- 
tolate of contact », both by nature and by his own wish. The 
1914-1918 war offered him that field of activity. Eye-witness 
accounts and stories proliferate about his deeds among his 
soldiers in open terrain or in the trenches. Perhaps he felt 
better employed in that situation where risk was daily bread 
and the sufferings of the poorest were shared. For the fifty- 
two months of that tragedy he lived with danger. By word 
and example he brought comfort, he raised morale, he stimu- 
lated energies, he received confidences, he prepared people 
for death. Vulnerable all the time, ignoring danger, he heard 
and saw everything. In the name of Charity with a capital C 
he built "bridges" between the troops and the high command 
and he even changed the mind of a staff officer of the armed 
forces about the basis for an attack! 

His priestly role during these terrible years is expressed in 
the words he wrote to his brother and sister-in-law on giving 
them his military chaplain's cross after the war: 


Keep it carefully, for it was my silent witness all dur- 
ing the war. How many lips of dying people kissed 
that cross! It heard the last sighs of innumerable 
young soldiers. It touched their mangled, shattered 
bodies. I can declare that if the cord of this cross 
knew all the blood it drank the water in which it dip- 
ped would run red. 

The commendations he received are full of the superla- 
tives the army uses; but one of them, that of 29 June 1918, 
uses an unusual term, it dubs him a "legendary chaplain". A 
halo of the "marvellous" was enveloping him; everything in 
his life was "marvellous": Bishop Jalabert, Senegal, the Afri- 
can Memorial, the great war. God was writing straight with 
crooked lines, down to the thunderclap of Auteuil, still re- 


It is hard to be faithful to a chronology in Fr. Brottier's life, 
so many circumstances overlap. Still a word must be said on 
the National Union of Ex-Servicemen. He had dreamt of the 
extraordinary spirit of fraternity born in the course of the war 
continuing among the former soldiers. He saw the foundation 
of a wide movement develop. This simple military chaplain, 
who might be tempted to create "his" association of ex-ser- 
vicemen along confessional lines, became a forward-looking 
priest aiming at a national union open to all without distinction. 
He did not hesitate to involve public powers and he even got 
access to Clemenceau, then President of the Council. Once 
again, the driving-force behind his outsize plans was love. 
The union grew to two million members. Fr. Brottier never 
did things by halves, it was always "all or nothing". 


From the moment Bishop Jalabert told him that "Little Sis- 
ter Therese" had protected him during the war, Fr. Brottier 
sought an occasion to thank her who would become his col- 
league. He could have lit candles, celebrated Mass, gone on 


pilgrimage to Lisieux. No, he would make her a gift according 
to the greatness of her protection; he watched for signs of 

21 November 1923 

He went to the heart of things the day he arrived. His vis- 
itation took him to the chapel, an old unworthy shed. His 
immediate reaction was, Auteuil needs a new chapel and it 
will be dedicated to Therese. This would be his gratitude. 
All he needed was the permission of the Archbishop of Paris. 
Fr. Brottier's mind and heart moved fast. He would meet the 
cardinal on 1 December — nine days hence, time for a nov- 
ena! He spoke to Therese: 

If you want me to build you a chapel, tell me. I am 
going to ask Cardinal Dubois for the permission. If I 
come by 10,000 francs before the meeting, I will 
know you want the chapel. If you do not send it I will 
not mention the chapel. 
He began the novena, joined by the children's prayers. 

The Carmel of Lisieux has recently sent me a copy of a letter 
Fr. Brottier wrote that very day to the prioress: 

Paris, 21 November 1923 
Dear Reverend Mother, 

Today, feast of our Lady's Visitation, I have taken charge 
of a work well-known to the Carmel at Lisieux, the orphans of 
Auteuil. The Archdiocese of Paris asked the Holy Ghost Con- 
gregation, and Archbishop Le Roy has given me the responsi- 
bility. I want my first action, my first letter, to be for the Car- 
mel of Lisieux for Blessed Therese of the Child Jesus. 

Dear Reverend Mother, we have met before. I had the 
honour of seeing you in June 1919 in the parlour during a visit 
with Bishop Jalabert. I was leaving for Rome soon afterwards 
and you asked me to take a valuable little parcel to the Carmel 
in Rome, concerning the beatification of dear Sister Therese. 
Our pilgrimage was in thanksgiving. Bishop Jalabert and I 
were coming to thank Sister Therese for the protection she 
gave me as a simple military chaplain during the war. Ever 
since then I have had a special devotion to the Blessed There- 
se. On coming to Auteuil my intention was to place the chil- 


dren under her protection, which they now are. I erected a 
fine statue, and I am told another is coming. 

But all that is not enough. I have another idea, on which I 
need your advice. Our chapel is inadequate and ugly. It can- 
not serve as a chapel-of-ease for the parish we belong to, as it 
is situated within the buildings. ! would like to build one giv- 
ing onto the street, spacious and beautiful, serving both the 
orphans and our neighbourhood, and to dedicate it to Blessed 
Therese. This would be her first sanctuary in Paris. I am sure 
Blessed Therese will love to protect my dear children and 
receive the homage of the people of Paris, who will flock to 
this shrine. But I will not start until she herself indicates God's 
will. That is why I am writing, that you may help me to obtain 
the sign; and that is why I wanted my first action here to be 
this letter I address to you in all simplicity and trust. 

Little Therese will undertake to send us the hundreds of 
thousands of francs needed. She will also be mother to these 
poor children entrusted to us and will help us to prepare them 
for life in the practice of virtue and goodness. We begin a 
novena to her tomorrow, to finish on 30 November. I dare to 
ask you and your dear daughters to join us and carry our 
intention to the feet of the dear Sister. 

My respectful thanks, Reverend Mother, for whatever you 
can do to help us in our task, which you will understand to be 
delicate and difficult here in the capital city. 

D. Brottier 

1 December 1923 

On the ninth day, as he was leaving for the archbishop's 
house, a lady handed him an envelope with 10,000 francs! 
This authentic anecdote was to launch the whole Auteuil en- 
terprise and unlock a flood of spiritual and temporal value 
whose effects we still feel. Naturally, Cardinal Dubois said 
yes to the chapel, while not understanding why Fr. Brottier 
should want to build a place of worship in honour of Therese! 
No matter. 

8 December 1923 

Fr. Brottier did not let the grass grow under his feet. A 
week after his visit to the cardinal, the weekly paper published 


by the orphans of Auteuil, La France lllustree, launched the 
first appeal for funds. Within a matter of days the plan met 
opposition, but heaven visibly intervened to confirm Fr. Bro- 
ttier in his choice of title, Therese. He met M. Castel, who 
used supply coal to Auteuil; this gentleman was the brother of 
Sr. Mary of the Trinity, the last novice of Therese in the 
Lisieux Carmel. Fr. Brottier was thrilled to learn that Therese 
in her lifetime had known and loved the children of Auteuil and 
had prayed for the organization. M. Castel's witness was a 
trump-card that he used constantly to convince the Friends of 
Therese to build the chapel. The prioress of Carmel allowed 
Sr. Mary of the Trinity to be godmother of the Auteuil organi- 
zation. Auteuil was under way. From now on, Therese was 
intimately associated with it and the hand of God was on it. 
Fr. Brottier's trust, simultaneously blind and lucid, began to 
flatten mountains. To his virtues were added great human 
qualities. An indefatigable worker despite atrocious and per- 
sistent headaches, a proven organizer, a man of personal rela- 
tionships endowed with a fertile imagination, he undertook 
disconcerting enterprises in various domains, even scandaliz- 
ing some of his friends. Like all who live the gospel to the 
letter, he was embarrassing! "Ask and you will receive". He 
took Christ's word to heart and staked all on providence, 
which accommodated itself to his faith. 

Fr. Brottier worked for twelve years at Auteuil, from 1923 
to his death in 1936. He had two capital preoccupations, 
closely linked: 1) to save the poorest and most disadvantaged 
children; 2) to associate Therese of Lisieux with his mission 
and thereby make known her message of God's love. When 
he had arrived, the organization was in difficulty. Staff and 
children were disgruntled and debts were huge. He began by 
repairing the plumbing, increasing salaries, improving living 
conditions and generally raising morale. He did not succeed 
all at once. His council did not understand why, a fortnight 
after arriving, he should open a subscription campaign, not as 
a stop-gap but to build a chapel, even if it was in honour of 
Therese — still only beatified, incidentally. "Love tends to be 

Outside the organization, and even within the Holy Ghost 
Congregation, his methods appeared irrational, bewildering, 
bordering on the wrong. They shocked some people. "You 
would be better employed putting up dormitories and work- 


shops rather than a chapel". This was not Fr. Brottier's logic; 
the heavenly treasurer is different from earthly ones! The 
appeals for the chapel brought in an avalanche of gifts. A 
magnificent chain of friendship started that would enable the 
Auteuil organization to develop prodigiously and save a multi- 
tude of children, a chain whose links go on multiplying. The 
chapel became a source of graces, a spiritual centre for an- 
guished supplications and cries of distress as well as for mes- 
sages of love and thanksgiving. Then he built reception 
rooms and professional areas, but the house at 40 Rue La 
Fontaine did not suffice. He opened houses throughout the 
country and instituted the association, "Orphans of France", 
whereby country households took hundreds of children into a 
family atmosphere to learn a farming trade. For twelve years 
of frenzied activity he struggled against the encroaches of 
misery. He kept the Friends of Auteuil informed about his 
concerns and plans, reminding them that Little Therese was 
involved in his undertakings for the poor. He wrote thou- 
sands and thousands of letters that all demonstrated his love 
of God and his deprived people. It has been said that he was 
a businessman. True, but his was the "business of provi- 
dence", he was "heaven's businessman". But his successes 
never went to his head. His fervent life of prayer, sustained in 
permanent converse with God, kept him humble and self-for- 
getful; that was his "success". 

The doctors are trying to find the cause of my sick- 
ness. If they knew all the misery that knocks on my 
door and my powerlessness to deal with it, they 
would know what is breaking me today. 
This was one of his last statements. He had doubled the 
intake of children in twelve years and was still not satisfied. 
He fell sick on 2 February 1936, the very day of the consecra- 
tion of the cathedral at Dakar. He died on the 28th. 15,000 
people filed past his remains before the funeral service con- 
ducted by Cardinal Verdier. 

Fr. Brottier's work did not finish with his life, but develop- 
ed in unlikely ways. Fr. Marc Duval, his second successor, 
opened sixteen houses! Today the Auteuil organization num- 
bers 3,400 children and youths. The disturbing question is, 
are we faithful to it all? Little Therese and Fr. Brottier gave the 
bad habit of miracles to those working at Auteuil! A daily 
miracle is hard to manage, yet it happens. The twenty-five 


houses of Auteuil train 3,400 boys in trades. There are 
1,300 men and women to educate them, as well as the inevit- 
able administration. 60% of the budget is always in doubt. 
Auteuil is a challenge to the most elementary rules of manage- 

Why this permanent miracle, why God's solicitude for Au- 
teuil? To show the intercessory power of Therese and Fr. Bro- 
ttier in a mission situation, on the limits of the spiritual desert. 
Therese of Lisieux, patroness of the missions, and Daniel Bro- 
ttier, missionary to the fingertips, are at home in this field of 
activity and know God's free gifts. They ask us to receive the 
poorest with open arms, the most deprived, those nobody 
wants. Are we fulfilling their expectations? One certitude 
remains. We at Auteuil know in all honesty that God's mercy 
is in inverse proportion to our merits. 

Jean Gosselin 

Director General of the Auteuil Organization 

28 February 1984 


"It has been said that I am lucky", Fr. Brottier confided to 

his friend and colleague, Fr. Yves Pichon. 

Yes, it is true. God has blessed me, he has given me 
the satisfaction of succeeding in what I undertook; 
but if, thanks be to God, I have been so lucky I can say 
with some modern writer or other that <my luck has 
been to rise at five every morning and retire at eleven 
or even midnight). My luck has been to work, to 
write thousands of letters, to try new initiatives, to be 
in the thick of things, in full tilt, availing of opportuni- 
The basic image of Fr. Brottier's personality is one of 

exceptional richness at the service of a supernatural conviction 

capable of surmounting all obstacles. 


We are dealing with someone who was feeling anything 
but guilty before an immense task. He took everything seri- 
ously, dedicating himself to the limit of his powers, but with a 
sort of quiet strength that had its source in his psychic balance 
and unshakable faith in God. "Your heart is worn out", the 
doctors told him on his deathbed. He answered: "My job is 
over; God, your will be done". His resolute spirit was his 
strength as a young man — his missionary vocation had 
shown itself at twelve. It sustained him in his studies despite 
the precocious phenomenon of headaches. A priest who 
knew him when he was entering the seminary described him. 
"A wide-awake student, hardy, resolute, sure of himself". He 
went on to the senior seminary of Blois, was ordained for the 
diocese and received his first appointment as dean of studies 
in the college of Pontlevoy. He met the Sisters of St. Joseph 
of Cluny in the infirmary where his frail health made him a reg- 


ular client. Conversation turned to the missions, Senegal, 
Guiana, the Congo. The missionary flame was ignited. At 
the end of August 1902, aged 26, he entered the Holy Ghost 
novitiate, knowing he could not prolong his family's pain at 
the news that he was going to the missions. His resolution 
was firm, even at the obvious risk of an early death. 

Yet his determination was sorely tried. His family had 
accepted his vocation to be a diocesan priest; their son would 
be nearby, a certain security was guaranteed. Daniel realized 
the difficulty of parting and wrote about it to his future master 
of novices. "I never knew it was so complicated to leave the 
world". He had foreseen his mother's objections and pre- 
pared his answers, but his father was more categoric. "Have 
you thought about your health? Your broad shoulders give the 
impression of strength, and yet look at all the doctors we had 
to bring you to, the headaches since you were a child, that 
nothing can take away. It is folly to go out; you will get sick 
and have to come back. If you do go, it is against my formal 


Fr. Brottier was appointed to Senegal, which at that time 
was reserved for the more frail; missionaries died there less 
quickly than in the Congo or Ubangi-Shari. Once he had 
arrived, his zeal knew no bounds: meetings, talks, sports, 
band, parish bulletin. In less than three years his bad health 
forced him back to France. But when he returned to Africa 
after a break he resumed his life of activity, sustained by a bril- 
liant imagination and all kinds of talents. In the midst of it 
came the desire to be a Trappist. After a short trial he had to 
abandon this, even if the pull to contemplative life made itself 
felt from time to time later. 

Between 1903 and 1911 he spent only short periods 
overseas. Finally the doctors decided he must stay in France. 
A Sister who knew him in Senegal said: "Despite his many 
occupations, cares and problems, he was by no means sad or 
morose. No, he was bright and open, with the ready word to 
make people laugh. Yet he suffered, God sent him trials and 
troubles. Like all those who want to do good, he knew the 
value of generosity, sacrifice and self-forgetfulness". The 


missionary was back home. Known now for his many quali- 
ties, his liveliness and apostolic dynamism, he would make 
solid friendships like that of his bishop, Bishop Jalabert, who 
appreciated him. Fr. Brottier was to spend himself for Bishop 
Jalabert, gathering funds for the cathedral of Dakar. Other 
friendships among the French soldiers at St. Louis would help 
towards the future National Union of Ex-Servicemen, to be ini- 
tiated by himself, and towards the organization of the orphan- 
apprentices of Auteuil. His short stay in Africa sowed rich 
seed that would produce a hundredfold. 


For health reasons Fr. Brottier was not mobilized when 
the first world war broke out. But he enlisted with a group of 
voluntary chaplains, and went on to show courage and legen- 
dary dedication in the face of danger, giving of himself with a 
sort of fury. Soldiers would say to him, "Father, near you we 
feel sheltered; shells just go through you". We do not intend 
to recount this capital episode of his life in detail but only to 
look at the moral greatness of our confrere. Two mentions in 
despatches will suffice. The first is of November 1917: "Le- 
gendary chaplain of the 121st infantry regiment, for his calm 
and quiet bravery, his scorn of danger, his extraordinary spirit 
of dedication and self-sacrifice. He has spent himself in all cir- 
cumstances and under the most violent bombardments to 
bring the comfort of his presence and needed aid to the 
wounded. Highly esteemed and admired by all the regiment". 
The second is of June 1918: "A magnificent soul in whom 
the soldier's ardour and the priest's dedication combine. Le- 
gendary in the regiment whose difficult moments he shares. 
During the attacks of June 1 and 2, 1918 at Troesnes, he 
went through the lines lifting, bandaging and helping the 
wounded, seeking them out in the front lines under the intense 
fire of the cannons and encouraging the soldiers. . . Exercises 
the greatest influence on the soldiers, whom he sustains mo- 
rally in their difficult hours by his encouragement and exam- 

These were dreadful years, of which he would say later: 
"It was a hard apprenticeship; but now it is over and I am har- 
dened to war for all time". 


He did not want the bond of friendship that had grown 
between the soldiers to dissolve. Astonishingly bold when 
something seemed right to him, he did not hesitate to meet 
the head of government in person — a noted anti-clerical — to 
outline his plan on a national level: to create an association of 
ex-servicemen. "Your idea is excellent", said the statesman, 
"I fully approve and encourage you". This was the birth of 
the National Union of Ex-Servicemen, with the motto, "United 
as at the Front". 

Memories of the war would follow him all his life, but the 
frightful situations he had met did not alter that tenderness of 
heart that would make him still more legendary in the service 
of the orphan-apprentices of Auteuil. Providentially death had 
spared him, but the daily deaths of others affected his charac- 
ter sufficiently to be able to transform a moribund house into a 
thriving institution. 


It was not that Fr. Brottier had totally committed himself 
to activity. Twice he had felt called to be a Trappist — in 
Senegal in 1908 and then in France in 1912. These were 
signs of his passionate love for God, constantly seeking his 
will, a guarantee of the prudence of his actions, whether on 
his own behalf or for one of his many visitors. This outstand- 
ing prudence would inspire the Congregation to call him, de- 
spite his overload of work, to the post of assistant general. 
He did not look for it; he even sent his doctor and friend to 
Archbishop Le Hunsec, the superior general, to dissuade him. 
Back came the reply: "In appointing him to the Council the 
Fathers want above all to be able to benefit from his wide 
experience in the thorny questions that arise". 

One of the remarkable instances of his supernatural pru- 
dence was* the idea from the moment of his appointment — 
forty-eight hours after he was installed — that a new chapel 
should be built at Auteuil consecrated to her who was still 
only Blessed Therese of Lisieux. Wise people tried to dis- 
suade him, some blamed him outright for big ideas. He attri- 
buted the miraculous protection of his life to her whom the 
English-speaking soldiers called "The Little Flower". After 
the war he had said to his former bishop of Dakar how sur- 


prised he was to have escaped so many mortal dangers. The 
bishop took a picture of St. Therese of the Child Jesus from 
his breviary, to which he had attached a photo of Fr. Brottier 
and the prayer, "Little Sister Therese, keep Fr. Brottier safe for 
me". "Every night", said the bishop, "I begged her to save 
you; she worked the miracle" 


In building the chapel Fr. Brottier was also guaranteeing a 
mother for his orphans, and he launched into what all saw as 
an adventure. His supernatural boldness asked for signs from 
his protectress, visible and tangible ones. His trust in God 
was the support for his boldness, it would be artificial to sepa- 
rate them. "His life was an unending miracle", said one of his 
colleagues. It is a fact that while the chapel was being built, 
that is, 1924-5, he received daily by mail or in the offerings- 
box or from anonymous donors a thousand-franc note that he 
felt certain came from St. Therese. This sign urged him on. 
One evening about 9 p.m. he said to Fr. Yves Pichon, "I did 
not receive the usual money today; look in the offerings-box 
in the chapel, it may be there". Sure enough it was, so badly 
inserted in the slot that anyone could have taken it. Another 
evening after prayers: "I did not receive the money today; 
watch what happens". A lady arrived and offered him an 
envelope, asking for prayers for her father. It contained the 
thousand francs. Further anecdotes confirmed the aura of the 
miraculous surrounding him. Cardinal Verdier of Paris said, 
"Whenever I see Fr. Brottier I seem to see him in a halo of 


He looked on the chapel of St. Therese as the soul and 
focus of the Auteuil organization. It was a means at the ser- 
vice of the goal: to accept orphan children. This was his per- 
manent concern. He wrote more than 180 articles in La 
France lllustree, which was edited by himself, as many in the 
organization's Newsletter, thousands of letters — some days 
as many as 200 — all to defend the sacred cause, under the 


triptych: Open the door to them, give them bread, give them a 
trade. He wrote in the Newsletter of January-February 

< Bread for the orphans) is a father's cry who cannot 
make ends meet. Bread costs 1 F 40. Mothers of 
families, you know what it costs to feed three or four 
mouths a day. What would it be if you multiplied by 
300? Do you understand our cry of distress? 
Friends of Auteuil, must we stop taking in little chil- 
dren who will never receive their first holy commu- 
nion? These unfortunate boys are deprived of family 
help and affection, must we leave them on the 
streets, leave them to vice and misery? What is given 
to the unfortunate on earth will be rewarded by God in 

One day the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, impressed by 
criticisms levelled against the advertizing used by Fr. Brottier, 
and worried by the very development of the house, said to 
him: "Father, it seems you are letting yourself be carried 
away. People are talking about the considerable capital you 
use for new buildings, and I hear reports that you keep the 
doors open daily to new orphans. It has dangers. I know it 
would be cruel to refuse the unfortunate, but I have the duty 
to remind you to be prudent". The conversation took place at 
the orphanage. Just then a poorly clad woman with ema- 
ciated face entered. "Father, I am a widow, sick and penni- 
less. Tomorrow I go into hospital for a big operation. My 
twelve year old son may find himself without a family. Will 
you take him?" The woman looked from one priest to the oth- 
er, not realizing one of them was the archbishop. "Madam", 
said Fr. Brottier, "it is for the cardinal, not for me, to decide 
your son's fate". The cardinal started, hesitated, then said, 
"Yes, Madam, Fr. Brottier will take your child". 

When Fr. Brottier arrived on 21 November 1923 there 
were 170 orphan-apprentices; there were 300 in 1930, 400 
in 1932, 500 in 1933, 700 in 1934 and 1000 in 1935. A 
year later, at his death, there were 1400. The figure kept on 
increasing, it is over 3,000 now, with the added complications 
of diverse origin and culture, due to the many races repre- 
sented, from Asian refugees to the socially maladjusted; 
some houses also accept the mentally handicapped. 



How did this growth take place? The new director in 
1923 introduced himself calmly. Speaking to the staff, he 

This is no novice taking charge. Those who see him 
know that the years in Africa and in the war have put 
their hard mark on his appearance. But that is sec- 
ondary. What only counts, dear friends, is that you 
find in me, as you did in the last four directors of 
Auteuil, good will, a great longing to be of use to you 
at a moment none too propitious. 

Since the end of the war Fr. Brottier had been collecting 
money for the cathedral of Dakar. He had put his whole heart 
into that. Now he was offered a new appointment. That too 
he accepted and welcomed with the same self-dedication. He 
wrote : 

To serve means to get outside oneself, to be one's 
own no more. It almost means to have no rights, 
only duties. It means to have no self-interest, to sac- 
rifice everything to the general interest. It is to think, 
will and act for the good of others. It is to live, and 
sometimes to die, for the well-being of all, out of love 
for God. 

His way was to take decisions — some would call it rash- 
ness. He was convinced he was doing missionary work. 
St. Therese was committed on her part by her promise to 
shower roses from heaven after she died. So he gave himself 
over to working for the orphans, becoming attached to the 
boys and what families they had. His bulletin hammered 
home the motto, "Open the gates to them". His biographer, 
Fr. Pichon, said in the depositions for his beatification: "I often 
met him crying as he left his office at night, when he would 
say with sadness, See, I had to refuse a hundred more or- 
phans today; I have nowhere to put them; isn't it dreadful?" 


St. Therese's shower of roses did not turn sufficiently into 
a flood of banknotes, despite Fr. Brottier's campaigning ge- 


nius and conviction. The demand exceeded the supply. 
Thousands of letters, articles in La France lllustree and the 
organization's Newsletter, lavish ceremonies in honour of 
St. Therese at which tens of thousands of Parisians came to 
pray under the leadership of famous bishops — all human 
means were pressed into the service of the organization that 
had the triple goal of making good Christians, good workers 
and good citizens. On occasion the spiritual state of his 
charges disturbed him. He opened his heart to his chaplains: 
"When we examine the results so far we must admit they are 
modest enough; religiously, we are not raising our children 
high". The chaplains countered that levels were low every- 
where in such institutions, and that the handicap of orphans 
from poor families added complications. For material devel- 
opment he obtained the collaboration of an engineer of the 
polytechnic school to modernize the workshops, multiply the 
trades, improve the quality of teaching techniques and profes- 
sional training. The organization has kept up its tradition and 
reputation in industrial circles ever since. At his death the 
foundations were well laid and Auteuil had become known. 
As he said himself: "I could disappear any day. The future 
can be faced calmly, for I have created around our orphans a 
network. of friendships and dedication that I consider indes- 

These few characteristics, taken basically from Fr. Pi- 
chon's Life of Fr. Brottier, will help to sketch the moral portrait 
of our confrere. What must be borne in mind is that the 
mainspring of his life was nothing other than complete trust in 
God and in the organization's protectress, St. Therese of the 
Child Jesus. Union with God is the soul of the apostolate. 

Jean P. Le Gall, C.S.Sp. 
Former Director General of the Auteuil Organization 


Our superior general, Fr. Frans Timmermans, invited me to 
come and work at Auteuil with Mr. Jean Gosselin, the director 
general. I remember the day easily, 11 February 1976, as 
St. Bernadette Soubirous is one of my favourite Saints; like 
many of our young people at Auteuil, Bernadette was marked 
by difficulties in her family. Besides, two months earlier, I had 
attended a vocations meeting at Nevers. Someone had per- 
suaded me to go and pray before St. Bemadette's shrine, a 
thing not greatly to my taste. But God was waiting to give 
me a friend in the communion of Saints. Before that ema- 
ciated corpse I was overcome. Yes, Bernadette was indeed 
the sister of the children we take in. It was no chance that 
her physique was poor and that she died a martyr to asthma. 
God had loved her first, for he exalts the humble. One of the 
aspects of Auteuil became clear for the first time: through 
Fr. Roussel's and Fr. Brottier's work God was crying out to the 
world of today that he loves the poor, the most abandoned, 
the disinherited. How otherwise account for the unfailing help 
God gives it? 

I soon discovered other aspects I had known only superfi- 
cially before. Although I had lived eight years at Chateau des 
Vaux, our largest house, where I had looked after a missionary 
group, I knew nothing of Auteuil's finances. I was flabber- 
gasted. How could the treasurer sleep at all? Only 40% of 
our needed resources were assured for the upkeep of our 
twenty-five houses, to feed, warm, train 3,400 young people 
and pay 1,300 people in their service. We had no capital. 
The Lord had to send us 60% of our expenses daily. Yet dai- 
ly, monthly, yearly, our expenses were always covered, in- 
cluding the unforeseen and unforeseeable investments like 
burst boilers or written-off cars. There are plenty of unfore- 
seen factors in twenty-five houses of youngsters! I recalled an 


event from childhood. During a retreat I read the life of 
Fr. Cottolengo of Turin and was amazed at this priest who 
counted on God alone to feed his 2,000 people in hospitals. 
One unforgettable detail for me at the age of twelve was that 
each night he would open his window and empty out his mon- 
ey-drawer onto the street, so as not to be lacking in trust in 
him who feeds the birds of the air! But here in front of my 
eyes was the same act of providence towards the poorest: 
our 3,000 boys fed, instructed, trained, thanks to the gifts of 
our friends in heaven and on earth. We did not empty the 
cash-box out the window but, without capital, always unsure 
for tomorrow, like men of little faith, as Jesus would say, we 
saw money coming in, just enough to pay debts and calm the 
storms of our debtors. 

I admit the first months intrigued me. Fr. Brottier was 
famous throughout France but I did not see God helping us 
that much. Yet, already at Chateau des Vaux, God had been 
showing me the light. Fr. Lucien Rozo, former provincial of 
France, became religious superior at Auteuil, then went to live 
at 40 Rue La Fontaine, where he replied to the letters. He 
read out some for me: moving, full of faith, from people in dire 
straits, asking Fr. Brottier's and St. Therese's help. I quoted 
them regularly in our missionary group, to help us to pray for 
the Friends of Auteuil. But now I was reading the incoming 
mail myself, getting to know Auteuil in the raw. Therese of 
Lisieux, whom Fr. Brottier had chosen as patron of his orphans 
in November 1923, showed up everywhere. All the letters, 
sometimes hundreds, spoke of her. People invoked her, rec- 
ommended various intentions, thanked her. Her name and 
Fr. Brottier's were linked as colleagues to solicit impossible 
requests from heaven. 

From the start Fr. Brottier had thought only of Therese. 
Faced with the task of re-launching Fr. Roussel's great work, 
he had requested the children's prayers for nine days for an 
unnamed favour. When you come to Auteuil, look at the 
large stained-glass window in the transept over our Lady's 
altar, right beside his grave. The inscription reads: "1 De- 
cember 1923 his Eminence Cardinal Dubois, Archbishop of 
Paris, gave permission for the building of this sanctuary dedi- 
cated to St. Therese of the Child Jesus". In other words, nine 
days after arriving in Auteuil, Fr. Brottier had his permission to 
build the first chapel in Christendom dedicated to St. Therese 


of Lisieux, and had taken this Saint as patron of his orphans. I 
love his reply to the cardinal, who thought a young girl was 
not the best patron for his urchins. "Maybe my boys will not 
think about her but she will think about them!" From that on 
he dedicated himself to Therese's cause, making her known 
and loved, first by the people of Paris and then by all of 
France. He wrote in the editorial of La France lllustree, 6 
November 1926: 

In the right transept of our chapel, artists have repro- 
duced a moment of history in stained glass. On 1 
December 1923 the director of the Auteuil organiza- 
tion obtained permission from his Eminence, Cardinal 
Dubois, to build the chapel and consecrate it to 
St. Therese of the Child Jesus. The archbishop is 
shown kneeling, holding in his hands the model of 
Therese's chapel, surrounded by young first communi- 
cants and the teacher who prepared them; then 
Fr. Roussei, humbly kneeling behind the cardinal, then 
Canons Fontaine, Bletit and Muffat, and the present 
director behind them. Our Lady of First Communion 
is seated, the Child Jesus on her kness stretching out 
his hands towards the communicants to receive their 
homage. A flight of angels around and above the 
monstrance shining in golden light recalls that all 
these religious gestures move towards the sacred 
Host and that Therese will use this sanctuary, as she 
wrote herself, to make Love loved. 

The weekly La France lllustree was launched by Fr. Rous- 
sei in 1874 to advertize the Auteuil organization. Fr. Brottier 
began using it to make Therese known. Between 1 Decem- 
ber 1923 and 29 October 1927 all his editorials without 
exception spoke of her and her sanctuary. He kept the sub- 
scribers on their toes with graphs of subscriptions, lists to be 
filled, weekly information on the state of the work. The edito- 
rial of 6 July 1924 announced the laying of the first stone, 6 
September the opening of the foundations, 29 September the 
plan of the new basilica. He showed contagious enthusiasm 
for Therese. It can be said today, re-reading the lists of sub- 
scriptions, that he had mobilized the whole of France to offer 
the young Carmelite of Lisieux her sanctuary in Paris. On 25 
October he spoke of his real reason for the choice — it was 


that he was miraculously preserved during the four years of 
the great war, 1914-1918, by Therese. This chapel of 
thanksgiving would be the sign and instrument of a genuine 
Christian training, the first and essential goal of Fr. Roussel. 

But Fr. Brottier would also make Therese known through 
his correspondence. He replied to thousands of letters of 
benefactors and created a goodwill network to sustain the 
organization. His pen has been preserved. I have often 
looked at it. The thought that he would write 100 letters a 
day makes my fingers tingle on my own fountain-pen. It was 
a feat, and I understand why today correspondents send me 
his handwriting, letters addressed to them, like one recently 
from the altar-boy of 1908 at St. Louis in Senegal, or letters 
addressed to parents and grandparents of my correspon- 

The whole Auteuil organization resembles an iceberg. 
The visible part is twenty-five houses, 3,500 young people 
and 1,300 adults serving them. The invisible part is the thou- 
sands of people out there who are friends of Therese and 
Fr. Brottier. In the communion of Saints all these friends con- 
stitute a vast power of prayer and intercession that explains 
the unlikely. Thanks to them, the needed money comes to us 
daily. And there are other results more important for the sur- 
vival of the spiritual work of Fr. Roussel and Fr. Brottier. For 
example, as the administration of houses passed into lay 
hands there was danger that the work might lose its primary 
meaning, but that did not happen. Providence saw to it that 
each time men and women were chosen who kept the foun- 
ders' spirit, without cleaving to sterile traditions. Again, the 
temptation was strong to take in only good students, orderly 
quiet boys with good connections; on the contrary, influenced 
by the Holy Spirit, the directors continue to receive the poor- 

The main house, at 40 Rue La Fontaine, Paris, sheltered 
340 young boys of thirty-two different nationalities during 
1982-83! The director knows this is too many, it is unreason- 
able, but, face to face with certain situations, his heart acco- 
rds what his reason refuses! For example, two youngsters of 
fourteen and fifteen arrived, one black and one white, who 
had simply read Fr. Brottier's life and seen the Auteuil ad- 
dress. Another boy just brought his brother to the gate and 
presented him. Another fourteen-year old orphan was taken 


by friends to Paris and placed into Auteuil; tears first, then 
calm and settling down. That is Auteuil today. 

A moot point in our liberal world is how to present the 
faith to the young people we receive. I know our poverty in 
this area, and far be it from me to give rise to false optimism! 
God clearly sends us many men and women of solid and con- 
tagious faith who are examples to the young. It is humble 
work. We remember the grain growing of itself once God has 
sown it with our good-will, and we remember the darnel 
growing with the wheat. We rush to pull out the darnel and 
are upset by the Lord's patience and tolerance. We would 
only destroy the garden. 

I once spent a while with a group of eight adults on the 
Island of Reunion, a group called "Awakening the Faith". 
They speak to young people about religion. Veronica opened 
the meeting with a meditation on our Lady's Assumption for 
15 August. 

"Mary lived in a simple house at Nazareth. With her hus- 
band she recited the words every morning: "Hear, O Israel, 
the Lord your God is one Lord. You shall love the Lord your 
God with all your heart and with all your soul and you shall 
love your neighbour as yourself for love of God". Then she 
set to the day's work, for her husband was a poor workman, 
joiner, wheelwright, carpenter as needs were. Mary did the 
household jobs, tired at the end of the day. She had gathered 
diamonds where others gather pebbles (valueless acts). Her 
judgement was a triumph, the crowning of a meritorious life". 

Obviously Veronica's own spiritual life enabled her to help 
on the grain and stifle the darnel. The great prayers of our 
friends, as they come across in the letters to Auteuil, obtain 
the same for us. This is Auteuil's heart and strength. 

It remains for me to give some extracts from these letters, 
one better than the other. In 1976, 1,000 letters a day were 
arriving, and instead of decreasing this number has increased 
to 2,000 a day and sometimes more. Nothing explains Au- 
teuil except God's mercy to the most unfortunate, the spiri- 
tually deprived, that mercy that St. Therese of Lisieux made 
the centre of her message. The letters present a striking ana- 


logy to the psalms, as I often realize when saying the liturgy of 
the hours. The psalms are cries of the Holy Spirit, who used 
the poor of Israel as harps, singing or sighing according as 
those people were filled with pain, anguish, or joy, hope and 
love. Only God could inspire them, rough prayers, cries of 
people facing the worst: suffering, illness, death. "My God, 
my God, why have you abandoned me?" was Jesus' cry from 
the cross. We find similarities in the letters to Auteuil, psalms 
of the twentieth century. 

Psalm 68: Worn out with calling, my throat is hoarse; my 
eyes are strained, looking for my God. 
This is a cry of desperation. My son, divorced, has taken 
to drink and lost his job. Pray that Fr. Brottier and St. Therese 
will give him the will to live and the faith to find a more bal- 
anced life. 

Psalm 110:1 give thanks to Yahweh with all my heart. The 
works of Yahweh are sublime, those who delight 
in them are right to fix their eyes on them. 
Send me a picture of Fr. Brottier. I was brought up to 
love that holy man. I am twenty-seven, I have a good job and 
I say that without people like you life would lose a fundamen- 
tal dimension. 

Psalm 90: I rescue all who cling to me, I protect whoever 
knows my name, I answer everyone who invokes 
me, I am with them when they are in trouble. 
A road accident at nineteen had made me a difficult per- 
son. My family thought I would never get out of the night- 
mare. I wanted to die. Then my mother asked you there to 
pray for me. When the novena started I felt inexplicably bet- 
ter. At twenty I am out of the tunnel, thanks to Fr. Brottier 
and St. Therese, and glad to be alive. Thank you. 


Psalm 83: God is battlement and shield. Yahweh withholds 
nothing good from those who walk without 
After a long illness, two years of agony and terrible suf- 
fering, my dear husband has died. He never rebelled or des- 
paired. He kept the faith and called on Fr. Brottier and 
St. Therese. He offered his sufferings for others. I will al- 
ways have full trust in Fr. Brottier. 

Psalm 39: I waited and waited for Yahweh, now at last he 
has stooped to me and heard my cry for help. 
Traumatically affected by her father's second marriage 
Brigitte fled to the West Indies. For thirteen years I prayed to 
Fr. Brottier every day for her to come back. She returned on 
24 September, in good form and happy to find her family 
again. Thank you, Fr. Brottier. 

Psalm 33: They cry for help and Yahweh hears and rescues 
them from all their troubles. 
Fr. Brottier helped my seventeen-year old son to die well, 
worthily, saintly. This is my greatest consolation in my sor- 

Psalm 69: To me, poor wretch, come quickly, God! My help- 
er, my saviour, Yahweh, come without delay! 
My daughter committed suicide tweive years ago. Now 
my grown son is depressed. My husband has left me. I am 
alone with my pain. Do you understand my misery? I feel stu- 
pefied. I expect the worst, but I do not know how. Fr. Bro- 
ttier, help me, I beg you! 


Here in Auteuil itself we meet hard things too. One of our 
students was killed on Holy Thursday 1983 at fifteen and a 
half while he was robbing a shop. He had been six months in 
one of our houses, yet we could not prevent him from vio- 
lence and death. His family belonged to that fourth world 
among the high-rise flats, under their shadow. Two million 
people live like that among us, the fourth world; they eat a 
quarter of what we do, they live four in a room if not in a bed. 
Their violence is born of trying to be like us. The Mass for 
Raymond was moving. All the boys were attentive and quiet, 
even if the mystery of Christ was partly hidden from them. 
After the Mass a fifteen-year old Algerian gave me a rose 
from the altar; he had been Raymond's best friend. 

I will finish on an optimistic note about grace bearing fruit. 
One of our former students is regularly in prison. He was con- 
demned for a serious crime on 15 December 1981. Through 
a priest, God touched his heart and he was converted. He 
wrote : 

"A choir came to sing at the prison on Christmas Day. I 
could not see but only hear them. I was deeply moved, sad 
and happy at the same time. I was transferred to another 
prison and condemned to six years of hard labour and soli- 
tude. In my cell I had holy pictures of Christ, of Fr. Brottier 
and of Fr C. I went to bed and said the beads the chaplain 
had given me, so as not to despair. The six years do not 
frighten me any more, the love of Christ is with me". On the 
last Sunday of September 1983 this young man was baptized 
in the chapel of his former home of Auteuil, after two years of 
preparation. His joy and happiness were transparent, fruit of 
all the prayers offered for Auteuil. Nothing is stronger than 

Fr. Gabriel David, C.S.Sp. 
Assistant Director General of Auteuil 


" We do not want weak souls in this totally apostolic Congre- 
gation" (Fr. Libermann, N.D. I 662). 

Daniel Brottier entered the Holy Ghost Congregation at the 
age of twenty-seven, after three years of priestly ministry in 
his native diocese, Blois, not far from the chateau of Cham- 
bord, one of the finest of the Loire valley. His call to mission- 
ary work coincided with his call to the priesthood, that is, 
from infancy. He wrote to Archbishop l_e Roy, then superior 
general of the Holy Ghost Congregation: 

From the age of twelve I have always envisaged mis- 
sionary life, and I still do, as the life of one who is pre- 
pared to offer and sacrifice all for the salvation of 
souls — whether quickly or drop by drop, what does it 
matter? If I may state my preference it would be for 
the former. I have no wish to be presumptuous, but if 
you have a dangerous post where someone has to be 
risked I say in all simplicity, I am ready. 
His generous magnanimity was already evident. 

"/ think that all those who seem ready to give themselves to 
God in this holy work will be disposed for everything " (N.D. I 

Daniel Brottier wrote to Fr. Genoud, his master of novices, 
some time before entering the novitiate: 

I did not think leaving the world was so compli- 
cated. It looks nothing when others are making the 
sacrifice. Once it touches you personally it is a differ- 
ent matter and appears in another light. My consola- 
tion is that I feel the same enthusiasm in my heart. I 
hasten to take my place among the workers in the 
Father's huge field. As I am under no illusions about 
the amount of work I can do and the limited energy I 
have for it, at least I long to offer my life, my blood, to 


spread the good news. I am convinced that the gos- 
pel will not be spread among the pagans except as it 
was in the early centuries. The seed will have to be 
watered with the blood of martyrs. Oh, if God would 
only accept my blood for this task, I would give it with 
a good heart. The desire for martyrdom is ambitious, 
but there cannot be a genuine missionary vocation 
without it. 

" The special end the Congregation is founded for is the salva- 
tion of the neediest and most abandoned souls" (N.D. X 

At the time he landed in Africa, in Senegal, Fr. Brottier 
was a gentle giant, of majestic appearance, his flourishing 
beard already whitening, his smile affectionate and cajoling, 
his glace penetrating and deep, at times exhibiting a leader's 
authority, at times a father's goodness. "This priest had two 
souls", said a religious Sister who knew him well. The Blacks 
and half-castes at St. Louis, the tough soldiers at the front, the 
orphans at Auteuil — these were the humble ones the Lord 
was entrusting to him. "An epic in three melodies", said 
Canon Coube of him: African missionary, military chaplain, 
father of orphans. 

" The soul, source and nourishment of true zeal is a pure, holy, 
burning love of God, deeply engrained in the heart" (N.D. X 

Daniel Brottier's manifest characteristic was zeal. From 
the moment he reached Africa he gained notoriety for febrile 
activity in the most varied areas. Retiring late at night, rising 
early in the morning, he was called to order more than once by 
his bishop and friend, Bishop Jalabert. If he did not learn the 
Wolof language it was because he was overburdened with 
ministry that was supposed to be temporary — a temporary 
that lasts, as is common among Spiritans! At the war front, 
as a voluntary chaplain in the infantry, always in the first wave 
of assaults, he showed, in his own words, "a superhuman 
abnegation and bravery". He would say later: 

If I had to do again what I did at Verdun and the 
Somme, I could not. I could no longer carry the 
wounded on my back, remain days and nights in holes 


of trees under deafening bombardments, smile and 
joke when one is stupefied by cold, tiredness, sleep 
and fear. All that is superhuman. 

Heroes appear in such circumstances. He had a high con- 
ception of the priest's role in the first line of infantrymen, shar- 
ing their existence, privations, dangers, witnessing to his faith 
and awakening theirs, sustaining their morale and helping 
them to die as Christians, never wishing to be elsewhere than 
where the rank and file were most vulnerable. 

His breath-taking activity at Auteuil is well known; here is 
his apostrophe to his inkwell: 

Do you see this inkwell? It has collected more than 
twenty-five million francs. I made no speeches, I did 
no visiting, I did not queue up for audiences, but I 
wrote 30, 50, 80, 100 letters a day, sometimes 
200. I answered everyone who wrote, everyone 
without exception. I thanked each of those who sent 
an offering, either for the cathedral at Dakar or for my 
orphans. When I received a ten-cent stamp I used it 
to send the answer and my thanks. This technique 

The source and nourishment of this unflagging zeal was 
his love of God. All who knew him are unanimous, he was "a 
man of God", devoured by God's love. Some Spiritans who 
knew him well may be quoted. 

Bishop Gay: "He did not see the Auteuil organization as a 
philanthropic work. It flowed from his love of God, just as his 
missionary desire and his stay in Africa were not a sort of 
adventure but flowed from his love of God. Likewise his role 
as military chaplain, his dedication to the fighting soldiers, are 
explained by his love of God, driving him on to save souls". 

Fr. Pichon, his immediate colleague from 1923 to 1936: 
"Fr. Brottier had a devotion to abandoned souls; in this he 
was a worthy member of the Holy Ghost Congregation. 
When some of our confreres seemed to find that Auteuil was 
not within the scope of our Congregation he replied that, on 
the contrary, we should dedicate ourselves to the abandoned 
souls of the orphans as well as to the Black races of Africa. 
Faith inspired him. His outstanding devotion was the Sacred 
Heart, especially Christ's love for us. He lived in the presence 
of God. Many times he said, When I have an important deci- 


sion to take, I pray; I am sure God helps me, and when I 
speak I really speak in his presence". 

Fr. Rigault: "His love for God, yes, that was his master 
quality and source of all the rest. Because he was a holy 
friend of God he was charitable to all his brothers, especially 
the "blessed" poor and gentle, and the victims of injustice — 
the little ones. Why a whole life of duty and sacrifice? Be- 
cause he thought only of serving and loving God in solacing 
human misery. He said, I seek only God's glory; as long as 
God is satisfied and souls are saved, what does the rest mat- 
ter? I do not work for myself". 

He had the faith to move mountains and warmly transmit- 
ted this trust in providence: 

Never doubt providence, but pray and act; that levels 

Never rush providence. At times we do not under- 
stand what is going on, until one day we see that 
providence was working for the best. 
When some business becomes muddled, gain time 
and let providence take its due course. 
When you are hesitating on a line of action to follow, 
ask a sign of providence; a sincere request will al- 
ways receive an answer. 

As long as we are able to say to God, <l took in these 
unfortunate children out of love for you, help me now 
to train therm, be certain that providence will step in; 
whereas if we tried to tailor the admissions to the 
resources available we would meet unpleasant sur- 

In cases of failure: <God did not want it; it is not his 
moment; we will have to wait). 

He often asked for signs, either directly from God or from 
St. Therese; to receive some heartened him to ask for more. 
Faced with a new project or idea, he would say, "I will think 
about it". That meant, I will pray, or await a sign. But in the 
meantime he would undertake the work of prudent research 
and ample consultation. 

The habit of living in God's presence led him, like the Cure 
d'Ars, to think he was called to contemplative life. He stayed 
only a fortnight at the Trappist monastery of Lerins. "The life 
of solitude is excellent but is not for me. I left it with a gasp 


of relief, for it was not my vocation". The providential sign in 
this case was hunger! He was hungry all the time he was 

"The principle of all our conduct towards the souls to whom 
we are sent will be a tender, strong and compassionate love, 
a burning desire to procure their salvation and sanctify them " 
(N.D. X 515). 

Fr. Brottier's great charity shone forth visibly in his life, the 
concrete expression of his love for God. "In so far as you did 
this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to 
me" (Mt 25 : 40). His parishioners at St. Louis were used to 
seeing him mobbed by groups of youngsters, as much at ease 
in religious instruction as in directing a choir, in a kitchen as in 
a plantation. The outsize "Brottier-mango" that he grafted is 
still famous! Always in the breach at the service of all! This 
description also fitted his ministry as chaplain on the field of 
battle. He was a ray of sunshine by his joyfulness, his never- 
failing goodness, his warm interest in everyone, especially the 
outcasts. He would say, "Goodness dilates the heart, open- 
ing it as a refuge for all sufferings". Canon Jamot testified: "I 
can say he always edified me by his zeal and amazed me by 
his energy. He always wanted to bring souls closer to God. 
Fr. Brottier was the most priestly priest I met at the front dur- 
ing the war. Yet he would be swallowing a boxful of aspirins 
a day for his headache. But I never heard him complain. He 
would say, This work must be got through today". 

His burning love for people was most pronounced at Au- 
teuil. He explained it to a colleague: 

What better life could you wish for a priest than the 
life we live here? Look, we spend the whole day doing 
what? Practising the virtue of charity. From morning 
to night, what do we do? Receive people in pain, 
encourage and help them, give them hope; receive 
orphans, clothe and feed them and give them beds, 
shelter them from want, train and catechize them, 
make good Christians out of them; serve as go-be- 
tweens for the unemployed to get them work; inter- 
cede with the civil, military or religious authorities for 
families or people in straits; enlighten and guide wav- 


ering souls looking for the right path; visit and console 
the sick and reconcile them with God; pray and get 
our children to pray for the thousand and one miseries 
we hear about; give a service to all, sometimes the 
rich more than the poor. What is all that, indeed, if 
not a perpetual exercise of charity? No, believe me, 
we have chosen the better part, or rather the good 
God has chosen it for us and we should thank him 
profusely. To live as Christ lived, is that not, for a 
priest, the way of perfection? 

His exquisite politeness, courtesy and distinguished ap- 
pearance revealed a great goodness, especially in the last 
years of his life. 

I became angry once, and the consequences were so 
regrettable that I swore to God I would never get 
angry again. To be good means to be self-possessed 
in the details of life, to reflect before replying or taking 
a decision. The greatest strength is to succeed in 
refraining from anger. 

His goodness hinged on an innate sense of justice. His 
first move at Auteuil was to raise the salaries of the em- 
ployees. He would say, "For each to have his due, more than 
his due must be given him". He improved the food and cloth- 
ing of the orphans as well. He made in clear that it was pref- 
erable to exaggerate on the side of generosity so as not to fail 
in justice. He would say, "To command well one must be 
prepared to carry out the order oneself". 

These qualities, along with his own natural bearing of 
authority, made him a peerless educator. He has often been 
compared to Don Bosco. Goodness and fairness, an alliance 
difficult to achieve, were the hallmark of his genius. He com- 
bined esteem, affection, respect for freedom with the de- 
mands he made on the children, no matter what their family or 
social background. He acknowledged their dignity as sons of 

If we want to succeed at Auteuil, we must dedicate 
ourselves to these children wholeheartedly and unre- 
servedly. I have offered myself to God to serve them 
until death. I desire no other job, I want to die here 
in their service. 
Those who come to live with us must be happy. 


The children must feel that I know what they are 
doing and that I follow them up affectionately. 
Let the children be treated without harshness, always 
with justice. Prefer rewards to punishments. 
Let them not have to complain about food, clothing, 
tools. Then you can preach to them and get them to 

Your ideal, children, is to become men. A man 
knows what he wants and accomplishes it, no matter 
what it costs. Do not turn out to be aimlessly wan- 
dering shadows. Spiritual values are proper to 
men. Our financial and social situation can change, 
our personal, intellectual and moral value remains. 
Take it to heart to develop the personality in you, the 
gift that God gave you. 

The Christian life will be inculcated in the children 
starting from the liturgy of the Mass. Only one must 
go to the trouble of minting it, making it thirty-five liv- 
ing, sung, interesting and basically happy minutes. 
The children must get the taste for the things of God, 
without being overdosed. 

Fr. Brottier's eloquence was touching when he spoke to 
the first communicants. 

Children, today I have a favour to ask you at the 
moment when the Master of heaven and earth is in 
your heart. What is it? Money? No. Prayers. By 
your fund of prayers you are the lightning-conductors 
of this house of Auteuil. 

This was not paternalism. In the playground stands a 
statue of Fr. Brottier stretching his cloak over a poor lad, one 
of those Paris urchins, more or less vagabond, that he would 
receive for a few months to prepare for first holy communion. 
Their ignorance was notorious and their replies ingenuous. 
Instead of punishing this one who had run away and been 
brought back, Fr. Brottier drew him to himself and a friendship 
was made. Many former students testified by letters and vis- 
its how much they appreciated and loved him. "True good- 
ness", he used to say, "is that which one procures for oth- 


" Recollection is the state of a soul present to itself and to 
God" (N.D. XI 546). 

People who had to deal with Fr. Brottier found that he was 
always in union with God. Fr. Pichon recalls: "When anyone 
went to see him, he laid down his pen, listened attentively, 
then replied as if he was repeating words he heard in the 
depths of his heart". Coming out of his room, priests were 
known to say, "You would think our Lord was speaking when 
he replies". A lady testified to the same thing: "When you 
asked him for advice, he would raise his eyes to heaven. He 
would reply immediately or else would say, "I will write to- 
morrow", or "Call me on the phone". This meant he was not 
clear before God just then". Among the gifts of the Holy Spir- 
it that he enjoyed, that of counsel was outstanding, as it was 
in Fr. Libermann. Bishops came to consult him on their way 
through Paris, like Cardinal Verdier, who spoke openly of his 
holiness on the day of his funeral. Bishop De Langavant of 
Reunion, now retired at Langonnet, says: "I had only two 
occasions to meet and talk with Fr. Brottier. I knew his work 
by hearsay and I was expecting to meet an excited, nervous, 
jumpy man, worn down by his many cares and worries. On 
the contrary, I was struck by his serenity, patience, goodness 
that nothing could trouble. I felt sure that only an intense 
interior life and constant union with God could bring about 
such virtue. When, after his death, there was talk of 'saintly 
Fr. Brottier' I knew I was not mistaken, I was not surprised" 

His presence to himself, his self-possession in peace, was 
so habitual to him that it seemed normal and natural to anyone 
who did not know his burning, sensitive, tender and violent 
character. A hasty word or inconsiderate action never es- 
caped him, even when faced with difficulties, opposition and 
misunderstanding. His own brother said: "I never saw him 
discouraged, even though he was often dreadfully tired. 
When something he understook did not succeed he would 
say, "We did not go about it the right way; we will try again 
and see". Unjust criticism wounded him but did not make 
him waver. "We will wait for them on the rebound", he 
would say laughingly". At the seminary he had given the 
impression of a boy who was turbulent and quarrelsome. By 
dint of prolonged sustained efforts he gradually achieved a 
self-control that gave the appearance of perpetual serenity. 


" Christian perfection consists in a perfect union of love with 
our Lord, founded on complete self-denial" (N.D. II 133). 

Recollection and self-denial are the conditions Fr. Liber- 
mann gives for an apostle to be led by the Holy Spirit. 
Fr. Brottier took our Lord's words at their face-value: "If any- 
one wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself 
and take up his cross and follow me" (Mk 8 : 34). He did no 
extraordinary penances, nor sought them. His cross was the 
dreadful headaches he suffered ever since he was a boy, 
increasing according to his responsibilities and, perhaps, his 
holiness. Archbishop Le Hunsec said, "Fr. Brottier's merit 
was to work while struggling every day against atrocious 
headaches. When asked about this he would reply, "the boil- 
er is still overheating". He did not complain. His only relaxa- 
tion was three or four weeks holiday at Saverne, in one of our 
houses, where the superior was one of his good friends. To 
that Spiritan he would say on his death-bed, "Fr. Groell, I am 
off". And Fr. Groell, far away in Saverne, heard him distinctly 
in the middle of the night ! " 

He suffered from congestion, which made his face 
flushed. "What a fine complexion you have", those who did 
not know his sickness would say. "I have no quarrel with my 
complexion", he would murmer, "but with its complex 
causes". He got through an amount of work with that persis- 
tent migraine. The Lord was giving him a share in his pas- 
sion, to which he had a special devotion. Fr. Pichon writes: 

"He suffered terribly from headaches, but he was a har- 
dened worker, nothing daunted him. I often saw him mix 
eight or ten aspirin tablets into his soup. I told him it was 
imprudent, it would poison him. He said it was the only way 
he could work in the afternoons. He did everything in his 
power not to be interrupted in his task, and in fact he never 
was. But he suffered to the end; I think God allowed those 
physical trials to increase his merits. He used to say, "I do 
not know what it is to write without a headache". But his 
head was always clear. He had a gift of improvising on his 
feet. A week before he died I entered his room and saw him 
weeping profusely, head in hands. "You are suffering 
greatly". "Yes, for several hours, uninterruptedly; there is no 
way out", he said". 


His evening rosary was a daily moment of relaxation. He 
used to say it walking alongside the chapel deeply recollected, 
in the children's playground. His power of concentration was 
clear from the easy way he settled into prayer or celebrating 
the Eucharist. 

" Strength and gentleness, that is the divine action and also a 
summary of all apostolic activity" (L.S. II 468). 

Fr. Maurice Briault insisted that Fr. Brottier's greatest vir- 
tue was his strength, a calm, persevering strength that noth- 
ing could diminish, neither the inertia around him nor the 
misunderstandings or even outbursts — which, incidentally, he 
preferred to eulogies. This is the characteristic of the Holy 
Spirit's living presence: fortiter et suaviter. A climate of 
strength, gentleness and peace is described by Fr. Libermann 
as the atmosphere that gives free rein to the Spirit of Pente- 
cost. Fr. Pichon says: "What best shows Fr. Brottier's heroic 
strength is his calm and unruffled serenity all the time in a 
house like this where catastrophes are daily happenings: a 
child runs away, a workman injures his hand, an employee 
complains about a boss. By evening-time everyone has lost 
patience except Fr. Brottier". 

" What matters is to live all day long in practical union with 
God" (N.D. XIII 699). 

Fr. Libermann coined a lapidary phrase for the secret of 
holiness of the apostolic person who is completely immersed 
in God's work, "practical union". This expression suits 
Fr. Brottier down to the ground. It means the habit of remain- 
ing united to God in the midst of the most diverse activities 
and of being totally submissive to the Holy Spirit. The more 
the activities increase, the greater the union. This has to be, 
so that the Spirit can guide those who are in peaceful self-con- 

Is not that our whole responsibility as Spiritans, a special 
belonging to him who is the chief Agent in missionary work? 
Mystic and man of action like his spiritual master, Fr. Brottier 
was a Spiritan in the apostolic line the Holy Spirit wished for 
us. Fr. Libermann wrote, "The supernatural life becomes 
somehow natural" (E. Sp. 554), and Fr. Brottier re-echoed, 


"When the supernatural becomes natural for you, then you / 
have a true interior life". 

" A cardinal principle in the interior life is to simplify things as 
much as possible" (L.S. I 419). 

Do not complicate the spiritual life, as people often 
do. Yet it is a simple thing. The spiritual life is r/ 
made up of little details: doing our duty to please 
God. In this way we are united to him all the time 
and become more perfect by grace. (Fr. Brottier). 
Fr. Briault, an unimpeachable witness, said Fr. Brottier 
was humble by virtue and by intelligence. "He never became 
vain over his successes. His fine mind preserved him from all 
exaggeration in word or thought about his works. In his 
immense labours he often took the advice of competent and 
authoritative people, provided the competence was genuine. 
He seemed to my eyes great rather than holy. Not that I 
oppose these terms, but his greatness struck me, it matched 
his humility". Faced with what he considered minimal results 
in the Christian training of his young people he really won- 
dered if he could go on asking people for money. He dis- 
cussed his worry with his colleagues, and was prepared to re- 

It has been asked why he always wore his decorations on 
his soutane, protruding beneath his long beard. His brother 
explained: "Daniel was a humble man; the decorations he had 
been honoured with facilitated his task with the authorities in 
favour of the orphans, he saw no other use for them. One 
day Bishop Jalabert insisted he wear the decorations when he 
went to visit a ministry of state, as the bishop himself told 
me". Far from posing as important, he was always affable, 
good-humoured, treating his simplest and most distinguished 
visitors with equal courtesy. 

There is a striking photo of Fr. Brottier and his two cha- 
plains among the orphans on the Rue Rivoli, 10 May 1935, 
national feast of St. Joan of Arc. It was his big day. His 
work and person were known to all Paris. As he strode for- 
ward, preceded by the band and followed by 400 boys, the 
cry went up, "Long live Fr. Brottier". From Place de la Con- 
corde to the Ministry of Finance he received delirious ovations. 
He whispered to his neighbour, "What good luck for our 
orphans!" He was radiant, but all the glory was theirs. "The 


more one does great things, the smaller one feels; the do- 
nothings feel big!" was one of his sayings. 

Finally he was humble because he was true. His humility 
and simplicity were expressions of precious traits of the Spiri- 
tan family, calling the apostles of the most abandoned to task. 
"Genuine simplicity", wrote Fr. Libermann, "is the virtue of the 
perfect" (L.S. I 238). 

Truth is vital and I like it. It is sometimes bitter and 
one hesitates to say it. I beg you to do me the ser- 
vice of telling me things as they are, to bring me back 
on the right path if I have strayed. Consequently 
never tell me agreeable things just to please me and 
leave me in illusory peace. Tell me the 
truth. (Fr. Brottier). 

The superior general, Archbishop Le Hunsec, and his sec- 
retary, Fr. Jean Gay, used to come to Auteuil for lunch with 
Fr. Brottier on Sundays. A fraternal cor unum atmosphere 
would lead to wide-ranging conversation on myriad subjects. 
Neither man saw him as a saint, nor did any of the Spiritans 
interrogated at the Process, even Fr. Cabon. His sister-in-law, 
at whose house he sometimes stayed after his parents had 
died, said: "We respected and trusted him, but in general we 
never thought of using the word "saint" about him". Mr. 
Pierre Boquet, the lay colleague who knew him closest, said: 
"Already in his lifetime Fr. Brottier enjoyed an esteem not giv- 
en to all. Great virtue was acknowledged in him, but, as for 
being raised to the altars one day, no one thought of it. God 
himself had to establish Fr. Brottier's reputation for holiness, if 
I may say so, by the miracles and benefits in answer to his 

Another sign of his simplicity was his good humour. He 
could play a practical joke. For example, on arriving at 
St. Louis he was invited to give the Sunday sermon. One of 
the priests got him to practise it, whereat Fr. Brottier pre- 
tended to do it very badly; when the day came, Fr. Brottier 
acquitted himself perfectly, to the relief of his worried con- 
frere! Another time he served up a cat-stew for a rabbit-stew! 
In community he was the life and soul of the party, much in 
demand, a man to work with. 

Trust is the greatest quality in collaboration. Good 

will is never to be either discouraged or rushed. Our 


collaborators must be re-wound regularly, like a 

He was a man of friendship. 

Friendship is a rare and divine thing. It is the most 
perfect of human sentiments because it is the purest, 
deepest, most free. 

Freindship is the reciprocal possession of two 
thoughts, two wills, two virtues, two existences. 
Friendship is forgetting oneself for the well-being of 

Sharing the joys of our friends we add to the gentle- 
ness they feel; sharing their sadnesses we soften 
their bitterness. 

Fr. Cabon testified: "What I noticed most in him is that he 
was a community man who, without attracting attention in the 
least to himself, tried to give pleasure to all and thus drew all 
to him". His humility was the touchstone of his community 

Fr. Brottier lived out his vow of poverty in an authentic 
Spiritan way before God and his confreres: poverty of the 
apostolic type, where everything is ordered to the service of 
the missionary work. One little room served as both office 
and bedroom. The list of clothes found in his wardrobe is elo- 
quent: two used soutanes, four shirts, four pairs of socks, six 
handkerchiefs and two pairs of shoes. Archbishop Le Hunsec 
testified: "He drove poverty to the limits. He refused the car 
the administrative council offered him; he used the metro and 
bus rather than taxis. Of the vast sums that went through his 
hands, he kept nothing for himself or his family or the Congre- 
gation. He had his book-keeping checked. He gave alms 
liberally while he was strict in administering the millions he 
received. Nothing must be deflected from its earmarked pur- 
pose". Fr. Briault recalled that Fr. Brottier occupied for some 
time an uncomfortable room near his in the Motherhouse in 
Paris. He never complained, living among the postal sacks 
that were coming in for his work. 

Testifying about Fr. Brottier's spirit of obedience, Arch- 
bishop Le Hunsec said: "Everything he undertook was in un- 
derstanding with his superiors. It was not easy, for he often 
had to convince his superiors, given the breadth of his daunt- 
ing initiatives. He had the plan before his death, for example, 


to gather all the orphans of France into one gigantic organiza- 
tion with financial and educational cooperation. His obe- 
dience was intelligent and responsible, it could relinquish per- 
sonal dreams and demonstrate that superior's decisions had 

With his vow of chastity Fr. Brottier was a man of limpid 
glance, of delicacy, reserve and distinction. He could love 
without keeping anything for himself. He gave demanding 
and comprehensive training in chastity to the adolescents in 
Auteuil who were starved of family affection. The vow chan- 
nelled the energies of his sensitive nature towards the abso- 
lute gift of himself that characterizes the apostolic person. 
"There is no greater love than to give one's life for those one 

" / will not take up that business with you now ... \ will do so 
with our Lord and his holy mother. . . then I will speak to you 
about it" (L.S. Ill 211). 

Fr. Brottier spoke of the communion of Saints, with parti- 
cular allusion to St. Therese of the Child Jesus, with whom he 
"conspired" mysteriously. From the moment he learnt from 
Bishop Jalabert that Therese had protected him during the war 
she became his confidante, benefactress, "little queen", in the 
extraordinary intimacy of saints! 

The providence of the orphans is especially little 
St. Therese, who has taken responsibility for our 
house once for all. 

All our friends continue trustfully to make their inten- 
tions, requests, thanksgivings to her, presenting 
everything that upsets and troubles them. 
Human miseries from outside are added to the chil- 
dren's and cast into our patron saint's heart. She 
welcomes, consoles and heals them. The prayers of 
our young people bring down her shower of roses on 
their helpers. 

He went so far as to display posters of St. Therese in the 
metro in Paris. People said, "Do you not think it out of place 
to put St. Therese on the same walls with actresses and pop 
stars?" He replied, "Must the metro walls be given over defi- 
nitively to advertisements for music-halls, theatres or drink? 
Among the two or three million people who use the metro 


every day, are there no Christians, devout friends of St. There- 
se? Why forbid Catholics to advertize?". 

He was thought to have a secret for obtaining favours 
from St. Therese. He expressed his feelings: 

People who come looking for my < secret) are fun- 
ny. My secret is this: help yourself and heaven will 
help you. My secret, as you well know, is twelve 
years of work, day and night, hard and persevering, 
and twelve years of hard and persevering prayer by 
everyone at Auteuil, priests, Sisters, young people, 
first communicants. I have no other secret. If the 
good God worked miracles here, through Therese's 
intercession, I think I can say in all justice that we did 
everything, humanly speaking, to be deserving, and 
that they were the divine reward of our work, prayers 
and trust in providence. 

His intimacy with St. Therese did not remain on the level 
of material services. They lived the same spirit of humility, 
surrender, trust and zeal in collusion. "In the heart of the 
Church I will be love", had said Therese. Fr. Liagre, former 
novice-master in France, in a little book entitled A Retreat with 
St. Therese of the Child Jesus, which is often reproduced in 
the Lisieux Annals, establishes a detailed parallel between the 
spiritual teaching of Fr. Libermann and that of St. Therese, in 
his chapter on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He concludes with 
two of Fr. Libermann's statements. "There is no genuine 
greatness except in this life of divine love" (L.S. II 230). "The 
Holy Spirit leads us until it is no longer we who live but our 
Lord who lives and acts in us in gentleness, peace, strength 
and love" (L.S. II 230). St. Therese said on her deathbed, 
"Love alone counts". 

" Be as a poor victim offered by Jesus to his Father for the 
salvation of souls" (L.S. IV 687). 

The cathedral of the African Memorial at Dakar, "his" 
cathedral, was to be consecrated on 2 February 1936. That 
day he experienced the first attacks of the typhoid that would 
carry him off. " I fell on the day of my Nunc Dimittis" , he said, 
"soon I will be going to heaven to sing God's praises". Ac- 
cording to the doctor he had an unknown type of typhoidal 
infection from the age of thirteen, whose poisonous effects 


were giving him the severe headaches all his life. The termi- 
nal typhoid fever was only a reactivation of these elements, 
that is why his headaches redoubled. 

How much I suffer all over, without respite; I have 
nowhere to turn. I think God is telling me my task is 
finished and I will not be much longer with you. Fiat! 
Fiat! May your will be done; after all, you need nobo- 
dy; yes, my God, may your will be done? 

For fear of contagion he had to be transferred to hospital. 
"I see my chapel for the last time", he said. "I have done all I 
could; God will do the rest". Paul Claudel puts similar words 
in the mouth of St. Francis Xavier dying in Japan and looking 
out to China: "I did not accomplish all I wanted to, I did all I 

Fr. Brottier died on the morning of 28 February 1936, 
alone, or rather with Mary, as this prayer of his indicates, 
found in his breviary: 

At the hour of my death, O Mary, whom I have often 
invoked, be near my deathbed. Be there as my moth- 
er would if she were alive. My paralysed tongue may 
not be able to pronounce your name, but my heart will 
be calling it, as it does now for the fearful mo- 
ment. Will I be alone, without a loving hand to close 
my eyes? It does not matter. I will die with a smile 
in your presence. This I hope, this I believe, this I 
know for certain. 

Other anecdotes are told. A good friend of Auteuil, seri- 
ously ill, invoked Fr. Brottier the next morning, the 29th, when 
she learnt of his death from the newspaper, and was healed. 
An unbroken procession of about 15,000 people filed past his 
remains, and thousands more have prayed at his grave ever 
since. As Cardinal Verdier said at the funeral, "The Christian, 
and especially the saint, never departs from us completely". 

A few hours after Fr. Brottier's death, Fr. Pichon, his suc- 
cessor, was handed an envelope from an anonymous donor 
containing eighty-four thousand-franc notes "for the orphans 
of Auteuil, from St. Therese of the Child Jesus". Therese at 
that crucial moment was continuing her maternal influence 
from heaven, henceforth with Fr. Brottier alongside her. So it 
goes on. 


" Be holy as Jesus was holy; this is the one and only way to 
redeem and sanctify souls" (N.D. XIII 144). 

Blessed James Laval and Daniel Brottier were two Spiri- 
tans very different in character, involved in different ministries, 
but much alike in their path to holiness. They were apostles 
of unflagging zeal, men of exceptional breadth of activity, con- 
sumed by love for people, especially the most deprived, and 
no less consumed by love for God. They integrated these 
two loves in simplicity. After their death they pursue their 
apostolate to the most abandoned. They are living signs by 
which the Lord maps our route. 

Alphonse Gilbert, C.S.Sp. 

N.B. All the quotations given without reference are from the process for 
the cause of beatification, in the archives of the Spintan Research and Anima- 
tion Centre, Rome. 

The texts in italics are from Fr. Libermann (ND = Notes and Documents; 
LS = Spiritual Letters). The texts in bold face are from Fr. Brottier, collected 
passim from the works or reviews mentioned at the end of this issue of Spintan 


Those among the Spiritans, mostly French, who knew 
Fr. Brottier personally are few in number today, and all are 
over sixty years of age. They would have known him only 
from the Orly novitiate or Chevilly scholasticate. They would 
hardly have known him outside Auteuil, for he seldom left it 
except for meetings of the general council at the Motherhouse 
on Rue Lhomond, where most were of an age then not to be 
living now. Younger confreres, scholastics, might have met 
him at Auteuil at a "Good Cinema" show, an original idea of 
Fr. Brottier's, appreciated by the orphans and by all who liked 
a good moment of healthy relaxation. Personally I recall his 
tall figure in the Chevilly chapel. I think it was July 1935 at 
the solemn consecration to the apostolate: a glorious sum- 
mer's day, confrere-friends leaving for the missions they were 
appointed to on that day — some part of the African world, 
the West Indies, or alas! only France! Everything was excite- 
ment in that house some would never see again. "We prom- 
ise to meet around the Venerable Father". In those rows of 
white surplices over the black Spiritan soutane I can still see 
Fr. Brottier's radiant peaceful face, his beard flowing down 
over the strings of the surplice, his eyes flashing around or 
hidden in recollected prayer. He incarnated a type of mission- 
ary of the heroic mould, although we knew he had never been 
a missionary except in Senegal, which we felt was close to 
Paris. Wasn't Dakar a suburb of Marseilles? Even though he 
was not a Bishop Augouard he knew he was no second-class 
missionary. His health had not allowed him venture all the 
way to the equator, but at Dakar and St. Louis he had worked 
hard, sweated, shaken with fever and suffered migraines 
enough to have to come home. 

After his heroic and legendary dedication as a chaplain 
during the great war, he "lighted" at Auteuil, to rescue the 
colossal organization of the orphan-apprentices from near- 


extinction. I admit it never dawned on me that he might be a 
Saint and I would be promoting his cause! The circumstances 
of his death some months later, in February 1936, shed more 
light on his personality. It was a big sacrifice to die without 
being able to attend the consecration of the cathedral at Da- 
kar, the African Memorial. From his sick-room he radiated the 
happiness of a job well done, blessed by God, which he would 
never see with his eyes even though it was he who had drawn 
up the plans and financed the construction by his alms, his 
calls to generosity and the support of many people, Christians 
and non-Christians. Cardinal Verdier, just back from conse- 
crating the cathedral, officiated at his funeral and declared him 
a man of great virtue. It is to the honour of his confreres 
around him, and of his superiors, that they preserved and nou- 
rished the fama sanctitatis, the reputation for holiness, that is 
quite in place. 

The human successes of Fr. Brottier, his great work as 
builder, director, after his years of zeal and courage in the dan- 
gers of war, are explained by his charity. From 1946 to 1952 
the first process for his beatification took place in Paris, with 
ancillary ones at Blois and Dakar. The apostolic process took 
place at Paris from 1962 to 1963. 1 16 witnesses testified. 
It may not be realized that few Spiritans made depositions. 
One of the Consultors on the Virtues wrote: 

"Practically all the witnesses were eye-witnesses, al- 
though two or three had only occasional contact with him. 
Almost all these witnesses were of great value because of 
their knowledge; among them were three bishops of the Holy 
Ghost Congregation and a member of the French Academy, 
Henri Bordeaux. It is strange that for this religious most wit- 
nesses were outsiders and not confreres; of the latter there 
were ten. This is understandable from Fr. Brottier's kind of 
activity, as a missionary, as a military chaplain, as director of 
Auteuil, where almost all his colleagues were not confreres. 
This gives more weight to the witnesses, greater objectivity, 
since they could observe him over many years". 

Frs Yves Pichon and Emile Herbiniere, and later Frs Marc 
Duval and Joseph Boegly, in conformity with the desires of the 
Motherhouse, undertook or continued the steps of his cause. 
Any delays were not their fault. Besides, we have arrived at 
the end too soon — the required fifty years between death 
and beatification are not complete. In the report of one of the 


six Consultors on the heroicity of his virtues I read the follow- 
ing unsigned lines with pleasure; the writer spoke from his 

"One memory is that when the seminarians of St. Sulpice 
asked permission to visit Auteuil, the permission was always 
granted. The superior would say, Go, you have in Fr. Brottier 
the example of a faithful and total priesthood". 

Isn't that our ideal? 

Marcel Martin, C.S.Sp. 
Postulator of the Cause 
French Seminary, Rome 


Daniel Brottier's greatness is something that non-French- 
speaking sectors of the Congregation may learn to their sur- 
prise from this issue. Hardly anything has been written on 
him heretofore except in French. When his name appeared in 
the Osservatore Romano in January 1983, as a Holy Ghost 
Father whose virtues are recognized as "heroic" by the Holy 
See, it was time to know him and make him known. Unlike 
the situation of Fr. Libermann and Blessed Fr. Laval, most of 
us in the Congregation are contemporaries of Fr. Brottier, in 
the sense that we were born, and many were professed, 
before his death in 1936. 

Exceptional though he was among us, his life might be 
termed typically "Holy Ghost" or Spiritan in an ideal way. 
After a willing spell of seven years in West Africa that dam- 
aged his health to the extent that he could never go back to 
the missions, he, a man of intense energy, threw himself into 
working with, and living among, the most abandoned of Paris. 
He created a "Boys' Town" of bricks and mortar, of waifs and 
raggamuffins, that multiplied itself throughout France and did, 
in the simplest phrase, much good. But the mystique of 
Auteuil goes further than buildings and past-students. The 
influence of the man Brottier took on an autonomy from his 
work in the little campus — already in his life and increasingly 
after his death — to find a target in the physical and spiritual 
misery of various strata of Paris's poor and abandoned. The 
people's recognition of this is the "popular devotion" that is at 
work towards having him canonized. His remains, lying in- 
conspicuously in the right transept of the church he built, is at 
the heart of the Auteuil enterprise in many senses. 

Every Spiritan will think of his pet comparisons with 
Fr. Brottier, confreres whose memory he venerates and whose 
parallel with Brottier is an endorsement that the Spiritan cha- 
rism is workable in flesh and blood. I think of Bishop Joseph 
Shanahan. They were born and died within a few years of 
each other. According to photos and eye-witness descrip- 


tions, they had similar temperament, physique and even looks, 
flowing beard included. Both were consumed with Liberman- 
nian zeal, and both had an extraordinary devotion to St. There- 
se of Lisieux. Shanahan prayed at her grave in Lisieux, and 
spoke with her four sisters at the Carmel, as early as 1920, 
some months before being ordained bishop. As Fr. Brottier 
prepared his orphans for first communion, Bishop Shanahan 
prepared his people for baptism. "Magnificent people", he 
would say of the Africans, "a shame to see them without the 
faith". Neither man seems to quote Fr. Libermann expressly, 
but both of them lived his ideals both in the missionary apos- 
tolate and in spirituality. 

Spiritan zeal will go on finding new outlets. Auteuil is in 
competent hands now without too much Spiritan commitment 
in personnel, while the holiness of Fr. Brottier continues to 
radiate from it. The poor and abandoned, "magnificent 
people without the faith", will always attract young Spiritans, 
works "for which the Church has difficulty in finding apostolic 
labourers", as our Rule puts it. The foregoing pages on 
Fr. Brottier show what Spiritan spirituality and zeal have in fact 
been able to accomplish. Within the same traditions stem- 
ming from the same founders, the rest of us will not put 
Auteuil on a pedestal and leave Fr. Brottier in stained glass, 
but will humbly acknowledge the power for good in the provi- 
dential vocation God has given us. 

Myles L. Fay, C.S.Sp. 


1) A short Life of Fr. Brottier, subtitled "A French Don Bosco", by 
his colleague, admirer and friend, Fr. Yves Pichon, C.S.Sp., was pub- 
lished by Auteuil in the year of his death, 1936, with a preface by the 
superior general, Archbishop Le Hunsec; 95 pages. 

This was translated and adapted as a pamphlet in English by 
Fr. Joseph Mullins, C.S.Sp., published by the Holy Ghost Fathers, Dub- 
lin, 1940; 40 pp. 

2) A thorough full-scale biography was produced by the same 
Fr. Pichon two years later, 1938, with a preface by Henry Bordeaux of 
the French Academy; 400 pages, many illustrations. 

3) This Priest Had Two Souls, a biography by Christine Gamier, 

4) The Servant of God, Daniel Brottier, by Mgr Cristiani, Paris 
1962; 243 pages. 

5) A full account and study of the chapel of Auteuil dedicated to 
St. Therese was published by Madame G-G Beslier in 1930, with an 
epilogue by George Goyau of the French Academy; 95 pages. 

6) The same Madame Gernier published a biography in 1937. 

7) Le Pere Brottier, text by Christine Gamier, Preface by Fr. Carre, 
O.P., of the French Academy, Paris 1981. This is an attractive, 
colourful coffee-table book of 80 pages. 

All the above are in French except as noted in n° 1) 

IH ■ 

3 5282 00618 1609 

Duquesne Universi' 

At 50 

00618 1609 

direction of priestly 
at Vatican II. The 

decree on me pnestnood firmly stated that a 
priest is to seek his holiness in and through 
his pastoral ministry. This marks a shift from 
the school of thought typified by Dom 
Chautard's The Soul of the Apostolate, so 
popular earlier in the century; Dom Chautard 
spoke of the priest as building up a reservoir 
of grace by his inner life of devotion. 
However, when priests turn to look for models 
of this pastoral style of holiness, they may 
have difficulty in finding a modern man 
committed to this way whose virtue has been 
recognised by the Church. This difficulty is 
overcome by a study of the life of Blessed 
Daniel Brottier, a man who has lived through 
the traumas of our age - war, poverty and the 
struggle to keep faith in an alien world. 
Alphonse Gilbert and Myles Fay have 
collected together a series of studies on him. 
They believe this will help other priests work 
at their sanctification in the light of the gospel 
presented in this life, which is, in many ways, 
a living commentary on the teaching of 

Vatican II on priestly holiness. 

At 30 

ISBN 946639 02 7 

At 20